1998 is one of the most memorable--and painful--seasons in Minnesota Vikings history.
Those dots? Each one represents 10 minutes, and 40 minutes total. I literally had to stop writing for 40 minutes, because every time somebody mentions '1998 Vikings' to me, I think of four things: Wide Left, Robert Smith running out of bounds, Robert Griffith dropping a game winning pick in the end zone, and Denny taking a goddamn knee. So before I go on a incoherent, cursing, tirade, I had to stop and OH FUCK IT WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY GODDAMN IT WHY....
Besides the Wound That Will Never Heal, But Still Isn't As Bad As Drew Pearson's Push Off, 1998 was still something to behold. A record setting offense, a Randall Cunningham Renaissance, and a draft class that might go down as one of the best ones in Vikings history because of two guys that are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Everyone knows the draft story of Randy Moss--troubled kid out of West Virginia, lost scholarships to Notre Dame and Florida State. Caught passes from Chad Pennington at Marshall before the Vikings took a big risk on him at #21 overall. But a lot of folks outside of Minnesota forget that they also took a 6th round flyer on a local kid who went to Harvard in Matt Birk.
Both seemed questionable picks at the time, and both guys could very well be going into the Hall of Fame one day.
Moss's questions were almost too numerous to list, as are his accomplishments, but Birk--why was he a questionable pick for the Vikes? Well, if you remember, the Vikes had one of the best centers in the league at the time in Jeff Christy. Christy would make the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls in 1998, and it seemed that Minnesota was set at center for awhile.
Birk spent most of that first season on the practice squad, as I remember, and didn't see much playing time his first two years. But when Christy bolted Minnesota for Tampa Bay via free agency prior to the 2000 season, Birk stepped right in and took over. He was an All-Pro that year, and would be named to the Pro Bowl 6 of the next 8 years. He missed part of 2004 and all of 2005 with an injury, and raised kind of a stink when he said he'd play in '05 if the Vikes would guarantee the rest of his contract. They didn't, he went on IR, and returned healthy in 2006. While he was an anchor of the Vikings line, they produced 5 1,000 yard rushers, and consistently had some of the top rushing attacks in the NFL.
Moss has become almost a legend in Minnesota, at least on the field. Were it not for old video clips on You Tube, and highlights from NFL Films, some of his accomplishments would be downright unbelievable. He's one of the best WR's of all time, and has been a key component of the two highest scoring offenses in NFL history.
Moss left after 2004 and famously came back for a month in 2010, and Birk left after the 2008 season. I was sad to see them both go, but I'm happy that they've found success in the NFL after the Vikings.
They weren't the best of friends while in Minnesota, and they'll probably never be on each others Christmas Card list, but they'll always be two of my favorite Vikings. It's hard to believe that both of these guys are still producing 15 years after getting drafted by the Vikings, and I wish they'd both be looking to get a ring as a member of the Purple and Gold.
But such is life, and only one of them will walk off the field Sunday night a Super Bowl Champion. Who do you want it to be?